Southern Hip Hop Scholarship


Although hip hop today is very much inundated with southern influence – er’body wanna be ‘country’ now, right Field Mob? – we continue to play catch up with how conversations about the south and its influence on the culture are discussed in academic circles. The genealogy of southern hip hop is a fascinating one, as it combats the universal notion that it follows the same blueprint of bi-coastal (Northeast and west coast) hip hop. While the culture started in New York, hip hop took root differently in the South, calling to its kinfolk, its funky and sacred musical forefathers, and the long shadow of the Civil Rights Movement. The work for southern hip hop was different: not only was it a show-and-prove that southerners were capable of the ‘sophisticated’ art form of lyricism, it also was tasked with updating what the contemporary American South looked and sounded like after the Civil Rights Movement era. For many non-southerners, the era of the movement is as modern as the Black South gets, a belief buoyed by the South’s own complicated relationship to its history. Southern hip hop embraces all the complexities and counterpoints of what it means to be southern and black. Southern hip hop artists pay homage to the movement but don’t romanticize it. They take on the good, the bad, and the dirty.

It should be the same with Southern hip hop scholarship. Following a similar trajectory as the culture itself, there is currently little attention paid to the significance of the southern region in hip hop studies. However, that tide is changing, with the contribution of critical insight on the impact of the music and culture by southern folks including Imani Perry (Alabama), Joycelyn Wilson (Georgia), Zandria Robinson (Tennessee), Maco Faniel (Texas), Langston Colin Wilkins (Texas), and Fredara Hadley (Florida). This section is an effort to collect known scholarship – essays, books, lectures, and a few TEDx talks – with focus on hip hop and the south as a regional identity.